Even before Thailand removes the requirement to have a pre-departure RT-PRC health test from April 1, the number of international arrivals is growing apace. But the largest contingent is from India, assisted by a travel bubble scheme agreed earlier in the year. IndiGo Airlines, Spice Jet and Go First all said they were now running daily flights from New Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai and Bengaluru to Bangkok and Phuket. Meanwhile, Thai Smile, a sister airline of Thai Airways, flies to Kolkata three times weekly.
In pre-pandemic 2019 India annually provided almost 2 million Thai tourists, coming in third place behind China and Russia. But China has not restarted its zero-sum package tours and individual visitors are heavily discouraged with two or three weeks state quarantine required on return. Russian overseas tourism has slumped since the war in Ukraine with flights badly disrupted between Bangkok and Moscow.
Anil Punjabi, chairman of the Indian Travel Agents’ Federation, said that almost one thousand Indian tourists were entering Thailand every day, a number expected to double or even triple in the next two months. On average, Indian tourists spend about seven days in Thailand and spend about 6,000 baht daily. According to Thomas Cook, the global travel group, Thailand is in the top three overseas vacation spots for Indians.
In Pattaya, the noticeable signs have been more diners in the more popular Indian restaurants, such as Ali Baba and Madras Darbar, and the re-emergence of some tour buses visiting the more popular tourist shrines. The Tourist Authority of Thailand (TAT) plans to participate in the South Asia Travel and Tourism Exchange, to be held in New Delhi May18-20, to keep the Land of Smiles high in the popularity stakes.
TAT is also focusing on Indian special interest groups with high spending potential. These include weddings and honeymoons with Pattaya already a popular choice for rich Indian families, golf, millennials and a growing number of digital nomads. If the Thai Cabinet agrees the proposal of the Ministry of Tourism and Sports to dismantle entirely the Thailand Pass bureaucracy from June 1, Pattaya will be back on the road to recovery.